Android Overview Updated March 24, 2021


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13,189 'Android' stories

May 2011 - October 2021

Android is Google’s mobile operating system, launched in September 2008, although its history technically began with the release of the Android alpha in November 2007. To this day, Android powers the majority of the world’s smartphones and comes in several different flavors across many phone makers.

What is Android?

Android Inc.

Android, before it was Android, was a company called Android Inc. That company was founded in Palo Alto, California, in 2003 by a crew of four: Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. The company and its project was acquired by Google in 2005 for a sum of more than $50 million, although the exact number is unknown. The company’s founders joined Google as part of the deal.

In its infancy, Android was an operating system built not for touch screen smartphones like the iPhone, but rather BlackBerry-like devices with physical keyboards. It’s well documented that after Apple shocked the world with the iPhone, ahead of its nearest competition by at least a couple years, Google and Android Inc. had to go back to the drawing board to build something competitive.

Adoption by third-party makers

It didn’t take long after the launch of the iPhone for various manufacturers to enter the market with their alternatives — and Google’s Android immediately became the obvious platform of choice for just about everyone except Microsoft. HTC was the first manufacturer on board, and introduced the T-Mobile G1 running Android in September 2008. Soon after, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile jumped on board to form the Open Handset Alliance.

Android makers across the world

Iconic Android handsets

There have been thousands of Android phones released since Android’s inception, but some have been more important to the platform’s history than others. There was the original T-Mobile G1, as mentioned, but there was also the HTC One Google Play Edition, Moto G, Samsung Galaxy S4, and others. Some of the most iconic Android handsets include:

  • HTC G1
  • HTC Nexus One
  • Samsung Galaxy S, S2, S3, S4, and their successors
  • HTC Incredible S
  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Nokia 8
  • BlackBerry KeyOne
  • Google Pixel and its successors

In more modern times, there are several Android smartphones makers that popped up across various niches and in several international markets. Huawei is a dominant Android maker in China and many European markets, while Samsung is by far the most popular maker in the United States by far — effectively creating a duopoly with Apple. Today, there are dozens of major device makers contributing to the Android ecosystem.

Full list of Android OEMs

History of major Android versions

Android has seen countless software revisions over the course of its life, but in modern times the OS usually sees a major release on an annual cadence. In the earlier days, Google famously gave its major software releases dessert-themed codenames, but retired that practice in 2019 with the release of Android 10.

Version Name Release Devices
2.3 Gingerbread February 9, 2011 Nexus S
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich October 19, 2011 Galaxy Nexus
4.1 Jelly Bean July 9, 2012 Nexus 7
4.2 Jelly Bean November 13, 2012 Nexus 4, 10
4.3 Jelly Bean July 24, 2013 Nexus 7 (2013)
4.4 KitKat October 31, 2013 Nexus 5
5.0 Lollipop November 3, 2014 Nexus 6, 9
5.1 Lollipop March 9, 2015 Android One
6.0 Marshmallow October 5, 2015 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.0 Nougat August 22, 2016 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.1 Nougat October 4, 2016 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.0 Oreo August 21, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.1 Oreo December 5, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
9 Pie August 6, 2018 Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
10 10 September 3, 2019 Pixel 3, 3a
11 11 September 8, 2020 Pixel 4

List of major Android OS platforms

While Android proper is certainly the most widespread of Google’s Android operating systems, the company has also launched many offshoots of the main OS over the years. There’s Android Auto, Android Wear (now Wear OS), Android TV (now rebranded to Google TV), as well as versions of Android built for tablets and Android Things (now defunct).

Android Stories Today

While Android releases don’t carry a public dessert name any longer, they do have an internal codename that keeps up the tradition. This year’s release is “Snow Cone,” and Google has just released its usual statue for Android 12 alongside the platform’s rollout today on Pixel phones.

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The new Pixel 6 series delivers the company’s in-house Tensor chip which is supposed to upgrade how long these phones last. While it does do that, it’s a bit disappointing to see that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will only get 3 years of major Android OS updates.

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Samsung October 2021 security update is rolling out now to these Galaxy devices

As we prepare to see the release of Android 12 this month, Samsung is rolling on with its consistent monthly security patches. For October 2021, several Galaxy smartphones are already seeing Samsung push out updates. Here’s the full, continuously updated list.

Android Stories October 18

Back in May, Google announced a new Play Store requirement to have Android apps detail how they collect and use personal information. The Google Play “Data safety” section will go live in February as developers will soon be able to fill out the necessary information.

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Android Stories October 13

With Android 12 hitting AOSP at the start of the month, Google also released the latest Compatibility Definition Document (CDD). There are a handful of hardware and software changes that device makers have to abide by, but nothing too major.

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Android Stories October 12

Smart Lock dates back to Android Lollipop and was Google’s solution for reducing the number of times users had to enter their passcodes before the ubiquity of fingerprint readers. Smart Lock in Android Settings was recently updated with a much-needed modern UI.

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Android Stories October 11

Google announced the “Private Compute Core” at I/O in May as an effective rebrand of “Device Personalization Services,” now called “Android System Intelligence.” That was followed by “Private Compute Services” last month, with that component now available as an app on the Play Store.

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With the Pixel series, up until now, we’ve relied on a capacitive fingerprint scanner save 2019, where Face Unlock was briefly added to the mix. Because the Pixel 6 is set to include software-based Face Unlock and an in-display fingerprint scanner, we wanted to know just what biometric security you prefer on your device.

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Android Stories October 8

During I/O 2021, Google announced that Chrome for Android would be testing a built-in RSS reader. It’s considered an experiment that might not ever launch, but you can test the RSS-powered “Web Feed” in Chrome today.

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Android Stories October 6

The landscape of affordable Android tablets is littered with unbranded options and many poor-quality options. However, HMD Global wants to change that with the newly unveiled Nokia T20 Android tablet, which at under $250 could be a nice everyday companion.

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Android Stories October 5

Netflix rolls out ‘Play Something’ shuffle mode to all Android users

After limited testing in selected regions earlier in the year, Netflix has now rolled out the “Play Something” shuffle mode to all Android users globally.

Android Stories October 4

The Pixel’s Now Playing feature is powered by Android System Intelligence (previously called Device Personal Services). An update for Pixel phones running Android 12 will introduce an interface redesign for Now Playing, as well as the ability to send unrecognized songs to the cloud.

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According to some rumors, Android 12 is set to arrive today but while it is not technically official yet, we asked you what Android version you were running on your device and now we have the results.

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Android Stories October 1

A shortage of chips and other electronic components has been affecting several industries over the past year, though smartphones have only experienced minor effects to date. Unfortunately, things may get a bit worse according to a new report.

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Android Stories September 30

Android 12 has been almost a year in the making, but not all smartphones are eligible to get updated when it arrives. Which has us wondering just which Android version you’re currently running on your device.

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Android Stories September 27

Latest Fairphone 4 leak shows off the surprisingly sleek design in more detail

Modern smartphones are slick and refined pieces of technology, but all too often that comes at the expense of repairability. The Fairphone 4 is around the corner with the goal of fixing that with a shockingly slim and modern-looking design.

While the US and other regions are shining more of a spotlight on Google and the Play Store, the EU has already issued a 2018 ruling that imposed Google with a $5 billion fine over anticompetitive practices on Android. Google is fighting that fine, and slamming EU regulators over turning a blind eye to Apple.

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As smartphone charge speeds have increased, so have our charging habits. Which is why we had some interesting responses when we asked you how often you charge your smartphone.

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Android Stories September 24

Over the past few weeks, it’s become clear that Google is developing a mid-year follow-up to Android 12. Here’s everything we know is coming in what we’ve dubbed “Android 12.1,” from improvements for foldables, to fixes for a variety of issues, dynamic color availability, and much, much more.

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Android Stories September 23

Back in June, Pixel phones were the first to receive the ability to secure images and videos behind a passcode. Google today confirmed that the Locked Folder in Photos is set to soon arrive on all other Android devices.

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The European Commission today announced a proposal that would put in place requirements for smartphone manufacturers. Among the requirements is that phones start using USB-C in the EU, regardless of who makes the device, and also that manufacturers stop including a charger with the device.

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Smartphone fast charging should have completely altered the way in which we charge our Android devices, but it’s not clear just if that is the case.

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Android Stories September 22

Microsoft announced its first foldable in October of 2019, but did not ship the phone until almost a year later. The end result was not too groundbreaking, but Redmond is trying again with the Surface Duo 2. 

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Android Stories September 21

The best Android phones you can buy today [Update: September 2021]

If you’re on the hunt for a new smartphone, chances are you’ve got a lot of devices on your shortlist. There are so many different options out on the market today that it can make finding the right one a bit difficult. So, let’s take a look at the best Android phones you can buy today, as of September 2021.

Android Stories September 17

Last year, Android 11 introduced a clever privacy feature that removes permissions granted to “unused apps” that haven’t been opened in some time. Google is now bringing this auto-reset to older phones and tablets via Play services over the coming months. 

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Android Stories September 14

High refresh rate screens are not a new trend, but after a couple of years of inexplicably avoiding the feature on its iPhone lineup, Apple has finally adopted the feature in the iPhone 13 Pro series. However, they’ve been preceded by dozens of phones in the Android camp, so let’s take a look at every Android device that had a 120Hz refresh rate before Apple’s iPhone.

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South Korea’s regulatory authority, The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), has handed down a ruling and fine regarding Google’s actions with Android, saying that Google’s contract preventing heavier Android skins are an abuse of the company’s dominant market position.

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Android Stories September 13

With the fifth and final beta now available to Pixel owners, Android 12 will be released in the “next few weeks” according to Google. Now, though, we might have some clearer insight into the exact Android 12 release date.

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Niagara Launcher v1.4 beta adds foldable device support, more

Foldable smartphones are starting to build up a head of steam, and with a new form factor there are bound to be some teething problems. Luckily, apps like the popular third-party launch Niagara are now slowly adding support for foldable smartphones like the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip series with the v1.4 beta.

Android Stories September 12

“Device Personalization Services” is the method through which Google delivers and updates features like Now Playing (on Pixel), Live Caption, and smart actions in notifications to Android devices. This app, updated via the Play Store, is now being renamed to “Android System Intelligence,” at least on Google Pixel phones.

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Android Stories September 9

With Android 12, Google announced the “Private Compute Core” to allow for “new technologies that are private by design.” The company shared more details today about Android’s Private Compute Services.

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Android Stories September 8

Breaking from the recent yearly release cadence, the next version of Android to release might be a mid-cycle bump — an “Android 12.1,” if you will — rather than Android 13.

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Android Stories September 7

Lenovo Tab P12 Pro is a 12.6-inch Android tablet w/ OLED display, Snapdragon 870, ‘Project Unity’

Continuing its Android tablet lineup, Lenovo is today introducing a new “flagship” model. The Lenovo Tab P12 Pro brings upgraded specs, another big display, and a neat new software trick, too.

Android Stories September 5

Germany reportedly pushing EU to require 7 years of updates on Android, iOS devices

Long-term support is a key issue for smartphones, especially as Android smartphone makers are being pressured to offer faster and more consistent software updates. While many are asking for minimal improvements, Germany wants both Android and iOS devices to be getting long-term support for seven years.

Android Stories September 3

While people like desktop Tab Groups, the reception is much chillier in Chrome for Android. Google is fortunately listening to feedback and is “experimenting with changes to this feature’s behavior.”

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Battlefield Mobile is coming to Android in ‘Autumn’ via limited region beta

After being announced as coming by EA earlier this year, Battlefield Mobile will arrive on Android in a limited region beta.

Android Stories August 31

Chrome 93 is rolling out as a quieter release than usual on desktop and mobile today. However, a small tweak in Chrome for Android sees Google switch the dark theme to a darker shade of gray.

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Microsoft just announced that Windows 11 is launching on October 5 after a couple of months in beta, but the significant platform update will come without one of its notable features. At launch, Windows 11 users won’t be able to download Android apps from the Microsoft Store.

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Android Stories August 30

The Google Pixel 5 and 5a will soon no longer be the latest model in the Pixel family, and that means it’s time to check your trade in values. Whether you’re looking to sell your Pixel 5/5a to upgrade to the upcoming Pixel 6, you’ve come to the right place. First, let’s find out how much it’s worth and how to get the most value for your trade-in.

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Android Stories August 29

Magisk for rooted Android phones won’t die as creator works for Google, but will see big changes

Back in May of this year, famed Android developer John Wu announced that he had been hired by Google to be a part of the Android security team. It was then that fans of his project, Magisk, started wondering what would lie in its future given the obvious conflict of interest. This week, Wu has finally provided some definitive answers.

Android Stories August 27

Back in July, “Backup by Google One” started rolling out as an expansion to the existing Android backup service. This more granular and expansive approach to storage is now more widely available.

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Android Stories August 26

Netflix launches its gaming efforts w/ two Stranger Things games

Netflix is taking its first steps into the world of gaming, relaunching two Stranger Things games for Android exclusively for subscribers.

The rise of remote work and video conferencing has boosted webcam sales over the past year. It has also led some to connect their DSLRs and other dedicated cameras to their PCs, while people are doing the same with their smartphones. Reincubate Camo is one of the more popular PC webcam solutions for iPhone, and it’s now available on Android in beta.

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Android Stories August 25

Google reiterates that Pixel 6 will have UWB as it works to expand support in Android 13

The Pixel 6 series is going to be the company’s most ambitious flagship to date, and it really seems like Google isn’t holding back when it comes to various specs. Following some previous rumbles earlier this year, Google has once again reiterated that the Pixel 6 series will have UWB, but work is still being done to expand the feature for other devices to easily use it.

Android Stories August 23

Google Play today announced that Android app ratings will be localized by country and device type to make the star count “more personalized and indicative of the experience each individual user can expect.”

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Android Stories August 21

At the end of June, Google Pay gained the ability to save and display COVID-19 vaccination cards on Android. More countries and states are letting people add this “COVID Card” to their Android phones.

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Android Stories August 19

In newly unredacted court documents from the Epic vs. Google case, a previously unknown program has come to light. Google’s “Premier Device Program” offered Android phone-makers an incentive to exclusively use the Play Store instead of third-party options.

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As Epic Games continues its legal battles with Google and Apple, court documents are revealing a lot of interesting details regarding conversations behind the scenes. Today, an unredacted document sees a claim from Epic Games that, at one point, Google had apparently considered locking down Android’s ability to sideload apps in response to the Fortnite feud.

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